[Anglican Communion News Service] The secretary general of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, has said he would be prepared to talk with Boko Haram, if their leadership could be identified.
Speaking in a HARDtalk interview with BBC journalist Stephen Sackur, Idowu-Fearon warned that it was “not helpful” to talk of a “fundamental struggle between Christians and Islam” or use language which suggests “a form of genocide” against Christians.
Talking of his own experiences in Nigeria, Idowu-Fearon said: “The Boko Haram crisis we are facing does not discriminate. They come under the guise of Islam but we all know … that this is not the Islam we are used to.
“For example, in that north-eastern part of Nigeria it is predominantly Muslim – Shia and Sunni Islam. Who are they trying to convert there? So it isn’t religion per se, that’s the point.”
Idowu-Fearon didn’t criticize Pope Francis who had spoken of “a form of genocide” saying that the Pope had made his statement based on the information available to him; but he added: “The information that I have, what I lived with in my country, I wouldn’t use the term ‘religious genocide’ because with Boko Haram, more Muslims have been killed than Christians.”
He laughed off criticisms from some quarters that he was a “Muslim Bishop” because of his lengthy studies of Islam and dialogue with Islamic leaders, and said: “I didn’t choose this ministry. God called me. And I believe God has done that for a specific purpose.
“I come from the northern parts of Nigeria where religion is being used, and has been used, to divide us along Christian – Muslim lines. In the south west we have a significant huge number of Muslims and Christians. They don’t fight. Why are we fighting in the north?
“I believe my calling is to help the Muslim to see me as a fellow-Nigerian who comes from the northern part of the country.”
Idowu-Fearon acknowledged that there “would always be room for conflict” between Islam and Christianity because both religions were missiological; but he said that “our job, my job, is to help the Muslim and the Christian to understand each other.”
Asked whether his bridge-building work could extend to dialogue with Boko Haram, Idowu-Fearon said: “If we can actually identify who the true leadership is . . . why not? . . . Dialogue is the beginning of the solution … If they are willing.”
He continued: “We must all understand one thing: these are all God’s children, whether they are criminals or not. They are all God’s children and God love us equally. These have chosen to behave the way they are behaving and the responsibility is on those of us who believe there is a better way to help them to find it.
“That’s why I am a Christian. That’s why I am involved in bridge-building.”
During the 25-minute interview, Sackur touched on a range of issues, including conflicts within the Anglican Communion. Idowu-Fearon told him that Anglicans were working on a range of “Kingdom-things,” including Islamic extremism, corruption, poverty and bad governance.